Stumbling across Starcadian’s ‘New Cydonia’ is a revelation. Though soft on the ear, a lo-fi pop song built on airy synths, ‘New Cydonia’ is quite staggering in its inspiration. Elements of pop, synth music, house and funk can be heard. Sensual vocoder, dry and funky riffs, a bassline swaddled in Yacht rock indulgence. Imagine Daft Punk covering Toto and you only have half the picture.
We reached out to the man himself to guide us through the track.
How did you come to write ‘New Cydonia’?
I wanted this to be a cathartic ode to my hometown and all the things that I miss or have forgotten. I tend to find myself thriving when I occupy that bittersweet area of my brain where heart-warming and heart-breaking meet. Also my career can be whittled down to an obsession to write half as good a song as Toto. I’m not there yet, but hopefully one day!
How did you settle on New Cydonia as a location and central image?
New Cydonia is an old name for my hometown area and I needed to tap into that sparse beauty that I grew up around. I actually foley’ed several sounds from there that are subtly mixed in here and there and flew out to shoot the video on location. It’s an ode to all the things that we initially strive to get away from in our hometowns and eventually look back and realize there was beauty there to begin with.
There is so much detail in this song. When did the chanting come in and does it translate to anything?
This song had so many wildly different versions, there’s fast ones, slow, anthemic, quiet, but all throughout, the one thing that stuck was this Zulu proverb that I found beautiful; ‘Ingwe Idla Ngamabala’, which translates to ‘a leopard eats by means of its spots’.
There’s something pure in that to me, a way of saying, you are who you are, you have to come to terms with it and own it. That includes whatever baggage you bring from your upbringing and hometown, which ties into the theme of the song.
NewRetroWave recently published the video but I’d struggle to label this a synthwave. How would you characterise the sound?
To be frank, I’m not a huge fan of synthwave. I don’t tend to listen to a lot of it. I don’t really follow a specific genres. My tastes range from Mr. Bungle to Miriam Makeba, so I strive to do a similar thing with my music. Chord progression is king and I don’t care if it’s a salsa song or a 20 minute black metal odyssey. I’ll fall in love with the progression every time.
This seems very different to your past releases. What inspired the new sound?
It definitely took a lot of thought and I was well prepared to lose part of the audience, but if you’re listening to Starcadian because you like the 80s, you haven’t been listening.
2-3 years ago I started feeling like synthwave had become bloated. I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same thing again once everyone started jumping on the already buckling wagon. It was supposed to be a pure love of the music, not decade specific and I got the feeling it became a little too appropriated for my taste.
‘FAMVS’ is certainly about that, as much as it is about cults of personality like Kanye. We’re living in very strange times, where references and being integrated into a meme culture is way more of a priority than creating a beautiful piece of work that has one foot in the past and one in the future.
I’m generally not concerned about what it sounds like, but more about what it feels like, so if that comes out really 80s, that’s fine, but I’m not tied to that or ever will be. Plus the next album is much heavier, so I don’t mind keeping people on their toes!
6. You describe your music as ‘ear movies’. Could you expand on this?
I like to call my songs ‘ear movies’, because I tend to construct them in a way that makes narrative sense, similar to a movie. Almost every album so far has had a script before it became an album.
Me and my co-director, Rob O’Neill, have fleshed out this full mythology that spans all albums so far, and more that haven’t made it out there yet. There’s definitely a huge narrative that hopefully people are picking up on, but if not, it will be revealed once we can get a feature film up and running.
7. What does 2018 hold for Starcadian?
I completely rebuilt my live show and slowly started to roll it out, which is pretty exciting. In the meantime, there’s vinyl finally lined up and I still have to wrap up a few songs from Midnight Signals Part II, which is going to be very fun!
After that, it’s time to wrap up the next script and start the next ‘soundtrack’! Oh and most likely a B-sides compilation with unreleased songs this summer to tide people over, while I try to do an entire label’s job by myself :).
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